University Honors Program continues to grow

Seán Brennan

The 83 first-year students enrolled in University Honors have increased the program’s size for the 2015-2016 academic year, according to the director of the Loyola University Honors Program.

There was a boost in the Loyola University Honors Program’s size in the Fall of 2015, with the total enrollment in the program reaching 250 students. This is a jump from last year’s 220 honors students, and marks a positive trend in the program’s numbers.

Chinh Ngo, administrative assistant for the University Honors Program, said this improvement in honors enrollment jumpstarted in 2013, when the number of first-year honors students doubled from 40 to 80 from the previous year.

From there, the program continued to grow.

Naomi Yavneh, director of the University Honors Program, confirmed both years’ increases, and attributed the lift in numbers to the unique learning environment that the program offers to prospective students.

“We have a very strong honors program that adheres not only to the best practices in honors in general, but was revised a few years ago to conform to the ‘essential characteristics of a Jesuit Honors Program,’” Yavneh said. “Not only is our program designed to work with every major at Loyola – from music industry studies to chemistry/pre-med – but every student participates in our core curriculum.”

Yavneh, who is also a vice president on the National Collegiate Honors Council, said this curriculum includes various courses that revolve around the Jesuit learning ideals of social justice, ethics and community-engaged learning.

Kyra Young, associate director of admissions, also acknowledged this unique learning experience as a strong selling point for the program.

“Prospective students are definitely interested in the Honors Program, and we find it’s something that many students want to get involved with when enrolling here at Loyola,” Young said. “The emphasis on co-curricular learning, giving students opportunities to practically engage within their academic interests, is a pillar of not only this program, but of a Loyola education.”

While Yavneh and other faculty make themselves available to potential students visiting campus, the majority of marketing for Loyola’s honors program happens after first-year admission.

“We send students letters congratulating them on their abilities and telling them about honors. We invite them to campus for Honors Experience Day, or just to come and spend a day in honors,” Yavneh said. “I feel like our current honors students are the best marketing tool out there.”

Members of the program make themselves readily available to spend time with prospective students, and its this sense of community that attracted students like Brianna Daniel-Harkins, history freshman, not only to honors, but to Loyola.

“I love the inner connections and how our program still feels small,” Daniel-Harkins said. “I like the small groups and the honors-specific things, like the mentor-mentee program, and how connected the program is throughout all the years.”

The mentor-mentee program pairs up older members of the honors community with new students, and is just one aspect that helps to create a tight-knit support system that is inclusive of all classes.

On top of a unique curriculum and strong sense of community, Yavneh also attributed the program’s appeal to its financial opportunities, like the four-year full Ignatian scholarship.

Overall, though, Yavneh accredited the success of the program to the dedicated honors students at Loyola.

“Yes, we have great academics, but even more than that, we have great people in a great community- the honors floor, the caring, engaged professors, an adviser who stays with you from recruitment through graduation. And, of course, Beau,” Yavneh said.